Retro Puppetmaster (1999)


USA. 1999.


Director – Joseph Tennent, Screenplay – Benjamin Carr, Story – Charles Band, Producers – Kirk Edward Hansen & Vlad Paunescu, Photography – Viorel Sergovici Jr, Music – John Massari, Visual Effects Supervisor – John R. Ellis, Puppet/Prosthetic Supervisors – Christopher Bergschneider & Jeffrey S. Farley, Production Design – Radu Corciova. Production Company – Full Moon Productions


Greg Sestero (Young Andre Toulon), Brigitta Dau (Ilsa), Jack Donner (Afect), Stephan Blackehart (First Servant), Guy Rolfe (Old Toulon), Robert Radovaneau (Second Servant), Vitalie Bantas (Third Servant), Serban Celea (Ilsa’s Father), Dan Finiescu (Beggar)


In 1944, Andre Toulon tells his puppets the story of how they came to be. As a youth in Paris in 1902, he ran the Theatre Magique puppet show. One day, he gave refuge to an injured man. This turned out to be Afect, a three-thousand year-old sorcerer, who was being pursued by revived mummies in human form, who were hunting him for stealing the secret of life from the Ancient Egyptian god Sutekh. Afect taught Toulon the secret of imbuing inanimate objects with life and of being able to place the souls of the recently deceased inside his puppets.

Retro Puppetmaster is by all reckoning the seventh in Full Moon Productions’ Puppetmaster films. (See below for other titles). In terms of the series though, it is in fact an origin story. Previous entries had sketched out Andre Toulon’s past and adventures during World War II but this is the first entry that goes back and tells how Toulon learned the secret of bringing his puppets to life.

Even though the film hails in at a slim 70 minutes, it still feels a slight effort that is straining to fill its running time. Most people have sat to watch it for the puppet effects but the film takes over half the running time to get through the story of Toulon learning Egyptian secrets to get to see the puppets in action. The puppet effects are only so-so this time out – the film fails to evoke the eeriness of them in action that earlier entries had. The ending is obviously set up for further Puppetmaster back history sequels.

As with most of Full Moon’s productions, the film was shot on location in Rumania to cut costs. In this case, the Bands’ have cast all but a couple of the major parts with Rumanian actors. Alas, the Rumanians have an unfortunate tendency to speak with thick accents. This is especially obvious with the far too young Greg Sestero who is required to carry the whole film as the young Toulon, although Brigitta Dau has sweet presence as Toulon’s youthful love interest.

The other Puppetmaster films are: Puppetmaster (1989), Puppet Master II (1990), Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Puppet Master IV (1993), Puppet Master V: The Final Chapter (1995) and Curse of the Puppet Master (1998), Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003), Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys (2004), Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012) and Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017).

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